Skip to Content

25 Important The Magnolia Palace Quotes

This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.

The Magnolia Palace, the latest novel by Fiona Davis, takes readers on a gripping journey through the secrets and betrayals within one of New York City’s most impressive Gilded Age mansions.

The story follows two women from different eras whose lives become intertwined with the Frick family and the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums.

As readers follow the twists and turns of the plot, they are treated to a range of poignant and thought-provoking quotes that capture the essence of the story.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled 25 of the most important The Magnolia Palace quotes, each of which offers a glimpse into the novel’s themes of love, loss, family, and the enduring power of art. From the opening pages to the final chapter, these quotes showcase the beauty and depth of Fiona Davis’ writing and will leave readers both moved and inspired.

We hope you will enjoy the following list of 25 important quotes for The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis!

Plot Summary
Book Club Questions
Characters List

The Magnolia Palace Quotes

  • “‘Well, aren’t you a smart one?’ He didn’t mean it as a compliment.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 1, page 11 of the novel, the police officer questions Lillian about how she knew Mrs. Watkins was dead. When Lillian points out that the officer referred to Mrs. Watkins in the past tense, he responds with the sarcastic remark, “Well, aren’t you a smart one?” It becomes evident that the officer did not mean it as a compliment and his response highlights Society’s View of a Woman’s Place as a significant theme of the novel. Although Lillian demonstrates her intelligence, the officer does not appreciate her intelligence because of her gender.

  • “Above a drop-front secretary desk hung a portrait of a little girl with a strangely guarded expression, as if she didn’t trust whoever was in the room with her.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 2, page 20 of the novel, there is a portrait of a little girl hanging above a drop-front secretary desk. The girl’s expression is strangely guarded, as if she does not trust whoever is in the room with her. Veronica discovers this portrait of Martha in Mrs. Frick’s bedroom and becomes intrigued by her surroundings, as she has an interest in studying history at university. This portrait serves as a link to the 1919 storyline, which reveals the full story of Martha to the reader.

  • “Lillian was not a commercial product, neither a Gibson girl nor a Ziegfeld girl. She was the vision of perfect woman, the embodiment of beauty. An angel. ‘Angelica.’ Her mother came up with Lillian’s model name that same session. ‘We’ll call you Angelica.’ Lillian knew Kitty had done so to avoid any detection by her family back in Newport of their rather unorthodox venture, and the moniker stuck.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 3, page 35 of the novel, it is revealed that Lillian, an artist’s model, was not considered a commercial product like the popular Gibson girls or Ziegfeld girls who represented the American feminine ideal and showgirls for Ziegfeld’s Follies respectively. Lillian was seen as the vision of the perfect woman and an embodiment of beauty, referred to as “Angelica” by her mother, Kitty, who came up with the name to protect Lillian’s family in Newport from discovering her unorthodox career.

This pseudonym was created to set Lillian apart from other models and shield her from the shame that often accompanies nude modeling. The irony in this pseudonym is that “Angelica” connotes moral perfection, while contemporary society views nude modeling as degenerate, highlighting the inconsistency inherent in double standards. This contradiction reinforces the idea that society reveres the art but stigmatizes the model who made the art possible.

  • “Years of modeling had made it possible for Lillian to hover outside herself in a way that regular people didn’t. She knew exactly what position of the shoulders indicated strength, what indicated maternal softness. […] Lillian looked down, exactly as she’d done for the Titanic memorial, letting a touch of sorrow and unease pass over her features.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 4, page 50 of the novel, it is revealed that Lillian’s years of modeling have given her a unique ability to hover outside of herself and read body language in a way that regular people cannot. She understands the subtle nuances of posture, recognizing how different positions of the shoulders can convey strength or maternal softness. This skill proves to be useful when she is questioned by a police officer, allowing her to read his suspicion and respond in a way that allays his concerns. Throughout the novel, Lillian demonstrates resourcefulness and chameleon-like adaptability.

  • “As she braced herself to stand back up, a flash of white caught her eye. Deep within the forest of organ pipes lay what looked to be a small pile of papers.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 5, page 65, Veronica notices a flash of white and discovers a small pile of papers hidden among the forest of organ pipes in the organ room. This discovery marks the first time that the two storylines of the novel connect, as Veronica finds the scavenger hunt clues left by Lillian 45 years ago. The organ room serves as an important setting for this revelation, as it also appears in the 1919 storyline, emphasizing the connection between the two timelines. Throughout the novel, the setting represents new discoveries, and in this instance, it serves as a catalyst for Veronica’s journey of uncovering the truth.

  • “A beautiful coat, tossed like it was a piece of newspaper. She thought of the laundresses downstairs who would now be tasked with cleaning it, knowing that they’d be reprimanded if the master found it dirty the next time he called for it.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In this passage, Lillian observes Mr. Frick’s careless behavior and the impact it has on the people around him. By tossing his coat out of the car window, Mr. Frick disregards the effort of the laundresses who will now have to clean it, potentially risking their jobs if he finds it dirty upon his next request. Lillian’s perspective highlights the class disparity and the lack of empathy from the wealthy towards those who serve them. Additionally, the scene reinforces the insular nature of the Frick family, as they are more concerned with their own disagreements than the consequences of their actions on others. This observation also hints at Lillian’s growing awareness of the injustices that exist in society and her desire to speak out against them.

  • “He touched the book on his lap with his hand, and her eye was drawn to a dotted white scar, like tiny teeth marks, that curved along the webbing between the index finger and thumb.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Lillian encounters Mr. Frick in the art gallery at night, where she notices a white scar on his hand that resembles tiny teeth marks. She is taken aback by his sudden kindness and vulnerability, which is a stark contrast to his usual cruel and bullying behavior. Later in the story, it is revealed that the scar is a symbol of his guilt and penance over the suffering and death of his daughter, Martha. This scene highlights the complexity of Mr. Frick’s character and foreshadows his eventual reveal of his dark past.

  • “But it slowly dawned on her what he was saying. A Black man standing beside an open window of a Fifth Avenue museum, the alarm blaring—the situation would not end well.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Joshua, a Black man in the art world, faces daily racism and discrimination. When he and Veronica are caught in a situation where the alarm is blaring, Joshua warns her that being a Black man standing next to an open window on Fifth Avenue could end badly. This moment forces Veronica to confront her privilege as a white woman and the dangers that Joshua faces. The novel draws parallels between Lillian, Veronica, and Joshua to show how different sociocultural factors create obstacles and double standards. Joshua, like Lillian in the past, must navigate others’ prejudices, and his situation also involves dire consequences.

  • “New York had that same mix of beauty and ugliness, the mansions of Fifth Avenue and the slums of the Lower East Side.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Lillian contemplates a Turner painting while monitoring the success of Helen’s dinner party. The painting depicts the beauty of the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany, juxtaposed with the ugliness in the foreground. Lillian realizes that New York has a similar mix of beauty and ugliness, with the luxurious Frick mansion contrasting the dilapidated neighborhoods. This scene highlights Lillian’s perspective as an observer of both the Frick family’s privilege and the struggles of everyday people.

  • “‘This is my family’s home,’ he continued, ‘where I grew up, and where my parents lived until they passed away earlier this year, from the Spanish flu.’” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Richard reveals to Lillian that both of their parents died from the 1918 flu pandemic. Although the novel does not directly deal with the pandemic, it draws attention to the idea through the characters’ experiences. This resonates with readers who have experienced the recent COVID-19 pandemic, as it serves as a reminder of the past and present tragedies caused by global pandemics. This shared experience becomes the first bond between Lillian and Richard, leading to their eventual romantic involvement.

  • “You remind me of myself, we both know how to pull strings, to get others to do our bidding. You’re a chameleon, which is what I was when I started out, working as a desk clerk, pleasing whoever was in charge, but making sure that I pleased his boss even more. I like the fact that neither of us is afraid to take a creative approach in carving out a path to success.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Mr. Frick compliments Lillian for her successful matchmaking between Helen and Richard. He compares her to himself, as both are skilled in pulling strings and getting others to do their bidding. However, this comparison makes Lillian uneasy, as Mr. Frick’s wealth was built through questionable business practices, such as union-busting. This scene highlights the moral ambiguity of the characters and the price of success in a capitalist society.

  • “Over two thousand people dead. An utter catastrophe. Mr. Frick’s reputation had been whitewashed in the ensuing years as he solidified his power, and his increasing wealth made him untouchable.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Richard exposes Mr. Frick’s dark past to Lillian, recounting the story of the Johnstown flood, where Mr. Frick’s negligence caused the death of over two thousand people. Despite this, Mr. Frick’s reputation was whitewashed as he solidified his power, becoming untouchable. This scene emphasizes the corrupting influence of wealth and power, as well as the importance of holding those in positions of power accountable for their actions.

  • “She pulled out the object. It was an old-fashioned cameo brooch with an ivory profile of a little girl with delicate features and curls.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 11, page 170 of the novel, Veronica finds an old-fashioned cameo brooch with an ivory profile of a little girl with delicate features and curls. However, Veronica is still unaware that the Magnolia Diamond is hidden in the back of the brooch. This creates dramatic irony, as only the reader is aware of this fact, increasing the tension in the story. Veronica and Joshua have reached the end of their hunt for the Magnolia Diamond, but the mysteries of who took it and why it is there are still unanswered.

  • “‘Society matches.’ He sighed. ‘That about sums it up. I provide Helen the respectability of marriage and an escape from the confines of her father’s will, while she gives me access to the Frick family fortune, an easy life ahead of me.’” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 12, page 186, Richard and Lillian are discussing his courtship of Helen. Lillian reveals that she was writing both sides of the correspondence between Richard and Helen. Richard describes his relationship with Helen as one of convenience, where he provides her with respectability of marriage and an escape from her father’s will, while she gives him access to the Frick family fortune and an easy life ahead of him. This statement reflects the theme of Society’s View of a Woman’s Place, where love is not a factor in upper-class marriages, and each spouse brings tangible benefits to the table.

  • “For so long she’d served others, standing patiently, fully exposed, for artists. Making sure Kitty was taken care of. Kowtowing to the whims and tantrums of Miss Helen. She’d molded herself into whatever shape was called for, and was good at it. How caught up she’d been, to miss this.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 12, page 194, Lillian contemplates Richard’s proposal to go to Boston with him, where he will attend medical school. Lillian feels the need to do something for herself after a lifetime of serving others, including standing patiently for artists, taking care of Kitty, and kowtowing to Miss Helen’s whims and tantrums. However, Lillian delays answering Richard’s proposal because she knows she will have to tell him the truth about Angelica and fears his reaction. She is also torn between Richard and her potential Hollywood career.

  • “The model for it was a woman named Angelica, whose likeness can be found in statues all over Manhattan, and she was celebrated in her day for her classic beauty. But then she became embroiled in some kind of murderous love triangle and disappeared.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 14, page 209, Joshua tells Veronica the story behind the statue over the Frick mansion’s door, which was modeled after a woman named Angelica. The story recalls The Double Standard and the public perception of Angelica’s situation, illustrating how dramatically off base that perception can be. The reader knows the true story, but the characters do not, creating a pointed dramatic irony.

  • “Lillian laid a hand on Miss Helen’s shoulder. At that, Miss Helen burst into tears, much in the way that Lillian almost had with Mr. Graham. Neither of them was used to kindness, to gentleness. Which meant when someone reached out, softly and with care, it was enough to bring the walls of defiance and defensiveness crashing down.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 15, page 224, Lillian lays a hand on Miss Helen’s shoulder, and she bursts into tears, much like Lillian almost did with Mr. Graham. As unconventional women for the time, Lillian and Helen are used to people keeping their distance. Kindness and gentleness are not something they are used to, making it enough to bring the walls of defiance and defensiveness crashing down. Although the two women are not exactly friends, they connect through their common rejection of Society’s View of a Woman’s Place.

  • “Maybe, with Mr. Frick gone, Miss Helen would be free to figure out where she stood in the world without a parent scrutinizing her at every turn, comparing her unfairly to a long-dead sibling. It might be exciting, thrilling, to watch Miss Helen come into her own.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 16, page 239, Lillian watches Helen care for Mr. Frick, who is dying. She decides to help Helen through her grief, to support her as no one did for her when her mother died. Lillian is not the only one who believes Mr. Frick’s death will free Helen. Miss Winnie, the killer herself, believes the same thing. Lillian hopes that with Mr. Frick gone, Miss Helen would be free to figure out where she stood in the world without a parent scrutinizing her at every turn, comparing her unfairly to a long-dead sibling.

  • “Veronica expected Miss Helen to get even angrier at their discovery, but instead, she withdrew into herself as Joshua talked, becoming smaller in stature, weaker.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In chapter 17, page 258, Veronica discovers something that should make Miss Helen angrier, but instead, she becomes smaller in stature, weaker. Joshua distracts her with the clues from her old scavenger hunt. Veronica and Joshua cannot understand Helen’s reaction, but the reader does, creating more dramatic irony. Helen is reacting to the humiliation of her broken engagement with Richard and Lillian’s betrayal even after all these years.

  • “A sliver of hope lay with Miss Helen, whose familiarity with the art world might make her more understanding of the role that models played in the creative process, […] But deep in her heart she knew that only a few art collectors—Mrs. Whitney among them, as she was also an artist—entertained such liberal views.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In Chapter 18, Page 272 of The Magnolia Palace, it is revealed that Childs’s investigator, DeWitt, has disclosed Lillian’s true identity as Angelica to the Frick family. Lillian hopes that the family’s familiarity with the art world will make them more understanding of the role models play in the creative process. She places a sliver of hope in Miss Helen, who has liberal views on the subject, but she also knows that only a few art collectors share such views, including Mrs. Whitney, who is also an artist. Lillian is aware that even in the art world, she will still be subjected to the double standard and the judgment of society.

  • “She’d repelled Mr. Danforth’s advances and, in turn, he’d set out to ruin her. For all of her mother’s training, the caprices of the upper classes were as foreign as some European country where Lillian didn’t speak the language or understand the customs.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: Lillian discovers that Richard has exposed her identity as Angelica to DeWitt, and in Chapter 19, Page 286, she cannot understand why he would do such a thing if he truly loved her. Lillian feels like the caprices of the upper classes are foreign to her, despite her mother’s training. She believes that their class differences have led to Richard’s cruel and vengeful actions. This fleeting rapport between Lillian and Richard highlights the novel’s theme of transience.

  • “You remind me of Miss Lilly. The woman had an uncanny ability to remember details like that, to know exactly where items were that I’d lost. Too bad she was a brazen hussy of a woman.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In Chapter 20, Page 302, Helen compares Veronica and Lillian’s intelligence and notes Veronica’s ability to remember details like Miss Lilly, who was a brazen hussy of a woman. Although Helen admires Veronica’s sharp intellect, she still blames Lillian for stealing Richard. Helen’s assessment of Veronica will later lead her to offer her a job, and the two models will mirror each other as they both work for Helen.

  • “When Lillian ventured into New York, she did her best to avoid passing any of her statues, as each stone-cold likeness stood as a reminder of how young and innocent she’d been, and how easily forgotten. While the sculptors’ names were etched into history, hers was lost forever.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In Chapter 21, Page 314, Lillian avoids passing any of her statues while in New York, as they serve as painful reminders of her youth and innocence, which have been easily forgotten. Lillian’s name and likeness will finally receive the recognition she deserves as a muse and collaborator when they become part of the Frick Collection. This recognition will be especially meaningful to her as her modeling work is no longer transient, and she will no longer be invisible.

  • “I’d come from true poverty, was put to work at the age of thirteen, and spent most of my time fetching tonics and administering salves for a woman who ate too much marzipan and then complained of indigestion, who found sunny days a personal affront.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In Chapter 21, Page 320, Miss Winnie, Mrs. Frick’s private secretary, explains why she pretended to be deaf all these years. She found her employer’s complaints insulting, even as she felt sorry for her after Martha’s death. This anger is one of the factors that drove Miss Winnie to kill Mr. Frick.

  • “After years of having her anonymous image scattered about Manhattan and the world at large, Lillian would finally be named. Be recognized. And not in a salacious way, associated with scandal or as a pretty puppet for some Hollywood producer, but for her serious contributions to the art world. With respect. It was everything she had been quietly hoping for all of these years.” ― Fiona Davis, The Magnolia Palace

Analysis: In Chapter 23, Page 333, Lillian visits the Frick Collection for the first time in 45 years and discovers that one of the sculptures she posed for is now a permanent part of the museum tour. Finally, after years of anonymity, Lillian will be recognized for her serious contributions to the art world. She is overjoyed to be acknowledged with respect, and this recognition is everything she has been hoping for all these years.

Thank you for reading this list of Fiona Davis’s The Magnolia Palace quotes! Happy reading! ❤️